Gender

And There She Was

When I found out that my child was transgender and not my daughter but actually my son, it took some time to wrap my head around it. I went through a sort of letting go process. Although so much of my child’s true being remained, as testosterone, a new name and pronouns and appearances took over, I was forced to let go of the idea of having a daughter. And I had to let go of my daughter.

Each person’s journey is unique to them and their circumstances. Some parents of transgender children adapt easily. Some resist the process, embrace denial, hold onto the child they thought they had. And then some fall somewhere in the middle. I like to think that many of us fall in that middle place- transitioning as parents while our children transition to reflect their true selves. I love my son but I missed my daughter. On a good day, I was torn. Feeling guilty for missing the daughter that never was, as if it took away from my feelings for my son. It took me some time to get to the point where I accepted that it was okay for me to feel this way. I had spent over 18 years building a relationship with Kerri and in the blink of an eye, it was all gone. What I had not realized was that underneath the mother-daughter bonding that we were so busy doing, there was also the basic mother-child relationship that remains regardless of what name my child goes by. Somewhere along the way, I came to accept that Kerri was gone and I let myself miss her.

When I first began getting “feelings” of Kerri being around, I was confused and did not mention it to anyone. I knew what they would think- that I wanted my daughter back or that I was wishing Kris was Kerri again or something along that line which would require me to explain (summoning up my patience with every fiber of my being) that Kerri wasn’t real….that she existed only in the context that Kris needed her to in order for him to survive. I didn’t want to place doubt in anyone’s minds regarding who Kris is. In some respect, it had been an uphill battle getting people to accept Kris as a boy. As it is, we still have people who refer to Kris by his birth name and feminine pronouns.

So as flashes of Kerri appeared, I shoved them into the background and carried on until I found out that Kris was no longer on testosterone and those flashes were not my imagination at all. As the last few months have unfolded and I learned more about what it meant for Kris to be genderqueer, non-binary, gender nonconforming (any or all of these) I grew used to those fleeting glimpses of Kerri and they didn’t sting quite so much. I was the only one who saw those subtle changes and rare sightings, probably because I’m the mom, right? That was fine with me. No need to give anyone cause for further use of wrong name/pronouns.

And then the other evening I was out with Diane, one of my best friends. I was in the middle of sharing some Baby Beej story when my phone screen lit up indicating a text from Kris. I continued talking while I opened the text but the words died instantly at the picture filling my phone screen. He had sent me a picture of himself in his Halloween costume. He had dressed up as an okapi- because hey, why wouldn’t a person want to be an okapi? The reddish-brown body of a deer with striped zebra legs and cute ears……

AND THERE SHE WAS.

Not the daughter I had let go of at 18. No, this was Kerri 4 years older- almost 23 years old. The only part that was Kris was his glasses. The rest was the daughter I had not seen in over 4 years. Not a glimpse. Not fleeting. Just pure Kerri looking back at me. I closed the text and continued to Beej story. My dear friend graciously ignored my misstep and let it pass.

That picture marked a turning point for me. It helped me pass a milestone in my acceptance of Kris as genderqueer. It made me realize that I might see more of Kerri and that was also okay, that Kerri is still part of Kris and this is what makes my kid so freaking unique and awesome and brave and wonderful! Whether he is dressed as an okapi or so non-binary that a person can’t gender or misgender him, he is one step closer to expressing his true self.

And as for me and those “Kerri” days, I can feel a little sad and a lot happy that he’s here and he’s my kid. I am truly blessed to have been given the gift of knowing my child WAY better than most people know theirs. His true spirit and nature and essence and being just radiate from him. How cool is that!!!!!

Family · Gender

All Because of a Dress

As Kris began his transition, our household transitioned, too. Bits and pieces of the 18 year girl were packed away, thrown out or stuffed into a closet. Or so I thought. When Kris started purging, boxes and bags appeared outside his bedroom door, with this pile of dresses flung over the top.

I told Kris about a prom dress drive that was in its planning stages at his old high school. He liked the idea of the like-new dresses going to girls who couldn’t afford new ones.

When the day came to donate the dresses, I packed up my car and took them to school a few hours before the actual drive would begin. My friend, John, was there to help me take them to the room where they would be kept. As I hung them up and fussed a little over them, he asked, “Are you okay?” somehow more in tune to my feelings than I was myself. I swallowed the unexpected lump in my throat and moved my head. Whether it was a shake or a nod, I wasn’t sure. Neither was he.

I went home, feeling a little off. Deep down, I knew those dresses had to go. And I was ready to let them go.

But I wasn’t able to settle down when I got home. I paced from room to room, starting a task but not finishing. I was feeling rattled but didn’t know why.

As time passed, I felt agitated and I realized that my heart was beating faster than usual.

I was distracted and shaken. I felt like the walls were closing in around me.

I tried clearing my mind. Taking deep breaths. Relaxing. No luck.

I checked the clock. The dress drive was about to begin.

Without warning a swirling mass of emotions washed over me all at once and I couldn’t catch my breath. I was shaking and I felt like I was going to jump right out of my own skin.

I had to get to the school. FAST.

I don’t remember consciously thinking about what I was doing.

I just knew that if I did not get back to that school before the other people came to drop off dresses that something bad was going to happen. I felt myself unraveling….. so I grabbed my keys, tossed out a “I’ll be back” over my shoulder and practically ran out of the house, leaving behind a confused son and puzzled husband.

I made it back to the school in record time and speed walked to the room that held the dresses. John stood nearby and one look at my face told him that I was not okay. “What?”

“I need a dress.” I looked at the dresses hanging there, protected in plastic. My eyes raced back and forth until I found the one I was looking for. The one I didn’t even know I was looking for until I reached out and grabbed it….and clutched it to me.

“Kris?” he asked. I felt his concern but outwardly he was very calm.

I shook my head, blinking back the unexpected tears over a dress I was never really sure I liked. I kept bunching the dress in my hands until it was nothing more than a crumpled bundle- a poofy white confection of a bundle.

We were silent. Me waiting for the panic to subside, because it wasn’t until I actually laid my hands on the dress that I realized I was having a panic attack, and John being solid and present for me.

 Why that dress?

Warning- As I tend to do when I’m talking about Kerri-Kris pre-coming out, I will be switching to feminine pronouns.

I have so many memories of Kerri as a little girl. These memories are a mixed bag. Kerri was not forced to do what is viewed as stereo-typical girl things growing up. It was her choice. Ballet, pom poms, American Girl Dolls, clothes, make up, jewelry….. all her own choice.

And going to high school dances was another choice she made. She loved dances. Unlike the horror stories I heard from friends with daughters of the same age, we did not experience nightmare shopping trips, hours spent matching accessories and hair and make up drama.

Kerri was pretty low-maintenance when it came to this sort of stuff. She picked out dresses without much fanfare and occasionally I purchased a dress for her and she wore it. Don’t get me wrong- she wanted to look pretty and she always did. She just didn’t turn the process into an ordeal.

And then she was a senior and it was prom time.

She was so excited! She was going with a male friend who wanted a date but not the relationship ties. It was the perfect arrangement for both of them.

We went shopping for the perfect dress. Store after store. Dress after dress. I stood outside the dressing room doors along with the other mothers, doors popping open and random girls walking out, posing, with everyone watching. Kerri was no different than the rest.

I’ll never forget the look on her face when she slowly opened the door. She had finally found “the” dress.

She glowed as she stepped out, smoothing the floating soft fabric. Then she twirled around and said, “I feel like a princess!”

Her obvious joy brought smiles to everyone’s faces, including mine. But it just didn’t feel right.

Here I was, having that mother/daughter bonding moment that I had been struggling with for 18 years….and it did not feel right. It was such a normal thing. What was wrong with me?

And as I held that dress pressed against my chest, I realized why that dress. It was the last dress I bought for Kerri. It was one of the last times I spent with the child I thought was my daughter. But I also know that it’s okay for me to keep the dress for as long as I want. While it does represent the daughter I no longer have, that’s an IMPORTANT thing- because it reminds me of everything Kerri was and everything she was not. I don’t long for Kerri to come back because as you know if you have a transgender person in your life- Kerri was a temporary part of our lives until Kris could BE and all the important parts of Kerri live on in Kris. The farther I get from Kerri, the clearer Kris becomes.

Everything, even a panic attack, happens for a reason.

I’ve included a link to an article about how it feels to have a panic attack. If you’ve never had one, you might find it interesting– How it Feels to Have a Panic Attack

Friday Fuzz · Gender

Five on Friday

Family · Friday Fuzz · Gender

Friday Fuzz: A Word from Kris

My Friday Fuzz feature has returned with a very special guest post. Please let me introduce you to my son, Kris. The piece that I’m featuring is one that he actually posted on Facebook right after he came out to us 3 years ago. It is completely 100% his words- not a single mom edit. I’m one of those mom’s that won’t touch her kids’ writing unless expressly asked. I have two serious writers and I know that we, writers, are a sensitive bunch.

The reason that this piece speaks so much to me is because although it seems to be quite simple with content but nothing extremely deep, the more I read it, the more I see the small glimpses of Kris’s heart in there. Even though he is there exposing something incredibly personal, he’s still guarded with what he does share. He’s holding back, protecting his heart and his inner being.

This makes me sad because three years later, he’s still holding back, hiding in the shadows, not letting people know him. (People translates to “family”.) I had the opportunity to talk frankly with Michael, my oldest son about this. Yes, he notices that at those functions Kris is always by himself, in the corner, unless one of us is with him. Three years later and he still doesn’t feel comfortable with the people he’s known his entire life.

I am using this piece with his permission so without further ado, here’s Kris-

Me! by Kristoffer on Tuesday, August 8, 2011

Hi everyone who decided to read this. I bet you’re wondering why I’m Kris on Facebook. I’ll tell you the whole story, from when it starts up to today.

When I was a kid, I would play pretend all the time. It was pretty much how I spent my life. In all of my childhood fantasies and in every story I wrote, I was a boy. I was myself and I was a boy.

Somewhere in there, I started going on Habbo, an online thing for tweens, and there I posed as a boy. I was never more comfortable than I was when I was on Habbo. I felt like I was myself when I said I was a boy.

I don’t know when I fully realized that, but I had it pretty figured out by eighth grade. I had no problem dressing and acting like a girl, but a part of me always knew I was a boy. I first came out to a few people that year , about being a guy trapped in a girl’s body. I had no clue what it meant. I nevver heard of it existing.

Then, in the summer following eighth grade, I went to the library and came across a book with a weird acronym as its title. LGBTQ, it said, and I had no clue what it meant. I checked the book out and read it cover to cover. That is when I first discovered I am transgender.

I came out to some of my friends, and the world didn’t end. I came out to my parents, and they didn’t react much. They said they’d support and love me no matter what.

During high school, my hair was pretty long, but I tried cross-dressing once, failing miserably.

I basically told myself to be a girl since it’s the body I was stuck in. I started getting my hair cut short. I got it cut shorter and shorter each time, until I realized what I was doing. I didn’twant a short hairstyle. I wanted to be a boy. I didn’t want to think that was it though. Every time I got my hair cut shorter, I thought I was more and more attractive.

I didn’t fully realize what I can do until the end of my senior year. I finally said enough’s enough and decided to stop pretending I’m a girl when I’m a guy. I told people I would cross-dress, alnd they all told me that all girls wear guys’ clothes, and it’s true. They make men’s clothing more comfortable. But I would be wearing men’s clothes for a different purpose: to be a guy.

The summer started and it finally started to sink in that I’m a guy. My mom bought me some mens clothes, and I haven’t been able to wear womens clothes since. I got some mens deodorant and I seriously can’t stop sniffing my armpits. It’s great. But anyways, I am starting to feel a lot more comfortable now that I’ve accepted myself.

The next step is having other people accept me. I’ve been a guy all my life. I’ve been forced to act like a girl by others but mostly by myself. I’m still me. I’m exactly the same person I have been all my life. You’re just learning something new about me.

I’ve been going out in public dressed as a guy, to express my gender. I have, for the most part, been passing very well. I’m not confident enough to go in the men’s room yet, but I went in there my first time out in public, and I got no weird looks. I’ll do it again some day.

Now, for those of you who care about my feelings, here is how you can effectively not insult me!

  • Refer to me as a male. Use my preferred pronouns: he, his, him
  • Please don’t call me dude or bro if you don’t call all other guys dude and bro.
  • If you don’t want to call me Kristoffer or Kris, just don’t refer to me with a name.
  • When I pass in public, don’t laugh or point out that I’m a girl. I want people to see me for who I see myself as.
  • That said, never out me. I’m a guy.
  • Don’t mention my private parts or the private parts I’m lacking. I don’t like being in this body. Don’t remind me of it.
  • Take me seriously. I may not act serious, but I am. I joke because I’m scared of making people uncomfortable. I really am serious though.
  • If you don’t know if something will insult me, ask me. I’ll be less insulted if you ask than if you just say it and it turns out to be hurtful!
  • Feel free to ask me anything you’re confused about.

As far as transitioning goes, I want to start on testosterone (T) soon,and then later on, I plan on getting top surgery, then bottom surgery.

Thank you to everyone who read this all the way through.

Kristoffer

Gender

Small Steps

I was at a community event earlier this week. Having lived here for 18 years, I knew many people. I expected this. What I didn’t count on was that I would run into people who knew my daughter, Kerri, but had no idea Kris existed.

I ran into a former PTO mate, Amy. I hadn’t seen her in years.

How’s your son doing? I just saw that article in the newspaper about him.” The local paper had recently run a nice story about Andrew attending a prestigious music school.

He’s doing really good. He’s only been there less than 2 weeks but it seems to be going fine.” Most of my conversations were about Andy and college these days.

That’s great! I’m just a little confused. In the article he mentions that his brothers were in band. But I distinctly remember you having a daughter. You have a daughter, right?” This woman had every right to be confused. And although our children were not the same ages, they were all in school together from Kindergarten to Senior Year. Her youngest was in her last year of high school, a year younger than Andy. She knew darn well I had a daughter.

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Okay, so here I was, in the middle of a crowd of people. Many of them knew exactly who I was. Some knew about Kris. Some didn’t know my children at all. And some knew me as only having boys.

It wasn’t the time or place for any conversation. Besides, she was someone I rarely saw or even planned on telling about Kris.

I smiled and said, “Oh yeah,” nodding the entire time.

But the article said his brothers. I kept thinking I must have forgotten one of your kids. Do you have 3 boys and a girl?” Her voice was hesitant and tone unsure.

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I know that my smile sort of froze like it does when I get caught off guard. My head was bobbing as I said, “You know with Michael being the oldest there are people that don’t even know he exists.” Her forehead crinkled in confusion. She knew who Michael was. But I kept on smiling and acting like I was making sense. “How are your daughters?” I was NOT going there with her.

Her face cleared and she started filling me in on her children. Crisis averted.

 

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This conversation went a little better than the one I had two weeks ago with a fellow parent, Shar, who I could have sworn knew about Kris. That encounter took place in the Back to School aisle at Target.

From across the stack of spiral notebooks, she called a friendly hello. We chatted for a few minutes about getting school supplies for college age children. In what seemed like a natural progression to her but caught me totally off guard was when she said, “But you must be used to this college stuff by now. How is Kerri doing?”

I froze. I couldn’t speak because it was a sucker punch type of surprise. I must have taken too long to speak because she looked up at me with a questioning look. I really messed up that one. “Well, yeah, no I mean yeah.” I know. Quite impressive, right? I can honestly say that I’m not sure what I said after that point. Once again, the setting wasn’t conducive to a heart to heart talk about what’s new in my middle child’s life.

Because I was caught up in last minute college shopping for Andrew, I put the conversation out of my mind and didn’t give it a second thought until the PTO Amy incident.

When I had time to compare the encounters with both Amy and Shar to others I’ve had over the past 3 years, I noticed a big difference in my response. With both Amy and Shar I was surprised but that was the extent of it. Where as in the past that surprise was accompanied by discomfort or sadness or pain, these last two times I was just caught off guard. To be completely honest, it felt good. I take it as a sign that I’ve passed another milestone. untitled (11)

One of the most important things I’ve learned in the last three years is that I have to celebrate every step in the right direction, no matter how small it might seem. Those baby steps add up quickly and they sure help when we encounter a few steps back. And there are always a few steps back!